Centenarian . . . Gore’s Resthaven rest-home resident Margaret Butler celebrates her 100th birthday last week. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

Swagmen roaming the roads were a common sight when Margaret Butler was a girl.

Last week, Mrs Butler, nee Hodge, celebrated her 100th birthday.

When she was 5 years old, she walked, with her older brother Harry, the nearly 4.8km to Sandstone Primary School at Kaweku, which was near Riversdale, Mrs Butler said.

About this time, men known as swagmen would travel the countryside and call in to farms offering to work in exchange for a meal.

The siblings would see them while walking to and from school.

‘‘One or two of them would hide in the bushes and jump out at us.’’

Most of the time she and Harry enjoyed the joke, but they were afraid of one of the men.

‘‘We saw him coming [and] we used to hide in the broom until he went past.’’

In the lean times of the Depression, the children used to go hunting for rabbits, which were an important part of their diet.

Roasted rabbit was ‘‘lovely, really lovely’’.

‘‘More like chicken, I suppose.

‘‘We used to have nice rabbit pies,’’ she said.

One day, her brother moved in front of her as she was about to whack a rabbit and she hit him on the head instead.

‘‘He had the scar for life.’’

After her parents shifted to Ardlussa, 11-year-old Eric Butler, whom she later married, drove her and her siblings in a gig to Riversdale Primary School.

She later attended Gore High School and caught the train in each day.

When she left school after three years, she started nursing training at Southland Hospital in Invercargill.

‘‘Dad had two sisters that were nurses.’’

She also completed maternity nursing training at Waiuku and played hockey for Counties Manukau.

When she was 26 years old, she married Mr Butler.

‘‘I had known him since I was 7.’’

The couple settled on a farm in Riversdale and had four children.

She had been very fond of playing tennis, hockey and golf.

She was not sure why she had lived so long.

‘‘Too miserable to die,’’ was all she could suggest.